Sunday, September 24, 2006

Ottawa 2006, Days 4 and 5


Saturday morning we headed over for the keynote by Rob Coleman, which was delayed by well over a half-hour due to technical difficulties (which is incredibly ironic for a seminar on the future of digital technology). Since we went through the wrong door, I got to meet Rob briefly as he was waiting to get into the locked room himself. Unfortunately, due to my empty stomach and the time delay moving too close to the Animarket opening, I decided to skip the keynote so I could get the booth up and running. Calvin took lots of notes and said it was really great, so I'll catch up on it from him later.

The Animarket moved along smoothly throughout the day, and I got to autograph several copies of my book. All of the copies sold through the Aniboutique sold out before the afternoon was over, so I was pleased and suprised to hear it. The last copy was picked up by a representative of Concordia College, who have already been doing some great stop-motion films through their experimental animation program. I'm confident it's in good hands; they're doing some neat things there. I also met David Levy and picked up two signed copies of his book Your Career in Animation: How to Survive and for me, and one for the VanArts library. Just by thumbing through the book so far, I can tell it's great, and David is a really friendly person.

Around 6ish I left to look for Steve, thinking I might ride over to Barrymore's with him for his Cultoons screening. Couldn't find him anywhere, but I did run into John K during my searching, and introduced myself, as I was looking forward to meeting him...very friendly guy. (Ren & Stimpy actually had a small part to play in my obsession with first viewing of Creature Comforts happened during a commercial break for the Cousin Sven episode.) So I headed outside just about to call a cab, when a van pulls up and a festival staff member Joanne asks me if I'm Steve Stanchfield, cuz she's supposed to give him a ride to the venue but doesn't know what he looks like. I tell her he looks like a grown-up version of Oopie from the Columbia Scrappy cartoons, but that doesn't help much. So she gives me a ride to Barrymore's so I can identify Steve if he's there...turns out he had driven there himself, so all was good...just a little communication gap and I didn't have to wait in line to get in.

The Cultoons screening was full of unique moments in the history of humans. For many of these cartoons, it was certainly the first time they had ever been seen in a nightclub full of tipsy animators...for many it could have possibly been the largest audience they ever had. The world may never know, but listening to the crowd watching Monkey Doodle in that setting at that moment was right up there with the moon landing as a legendary historical slice of time. Steve, Mary, Jerry and I had a ball giving it the MST3K treatment. Steve's monologues describing each cartoon were priceless...I told him he should do a one-man show where he just verbally describes cartoons without showing them. Sometimes it's funnier than the actual film. He graciously allowed me to introduce The Peanut Vendor, which we made into an audience participation happening where we had to scream whenever the monkey flashed back into the frame in those full grotesque close-up shots. It was frightening. It was triumphant. It was art.

John K also put on a good show with the outrageous and over-the-top Lost Episodes from Spumco Productions. I especially liked his new Weird Al video. I remember visiting Spumco back in 1998 when Stephen Worth showed us some of the first unreleased Flash cartoons, and I vividly remember this hilarious gag when George Liquor goes into his house and then his giant oversized head emerges from the front door...probably one of the funniest things I've ever seen. Partied until about 12:30 and then headed home to crash.

Here John K is perplexed by the unchanging grin on my pet goblin's face.

Sunday morning we headed back to the NAC for another day at the Animarket, which was slow but still mananged to talk to some interested potential students. Shut down around 4pm and went out for Thai food with Calvin, Steve and Mary. We then headed back to our hotel cafe to review a prospective student's portfolio, and moved on from there to the Best of Festival Screening. This year had an amazing line-up of winners, and I was very pleased to see these films be recognized. Many of them were even more entertaining the second time through, particularly Here and There and Jeu...just amazing stuff. My favorite films which I had viewed for the first time at this screening were Mr Schwartz, Mr Hazen & Mr Horlocker, and Michael Sporn's Man Who Walked Between the Towers...both brilliantly made on opposite ends of the spectrum.

The closing party was really a more intimate venue with less booming music and claustrophobia. I had a great lengthy conversation with Garry Schwartz, who works at CCS and has done some amazing things around the world with his animation workshops, very similar to the animation outreach project I have in mind. Also chatted more with David Chai, Steve's Thunderbean partner who directed Fumi & the Bad Luck Foot (which should have been at Ottawa! Oh well...) and was very excited to meet the great Bruno Bozzetto, who told me "Vancouver is the best-eh city in da world for animation!" Viva Allegro Non Troppo!

The Great Bruno Bozzetto.

Marv Newland, clad in Mike Gribble's jacket.

Overall this year's fest was a very inspiring experience and I hope to make it back next year! I met so many incredible people who I believe will continue to have a great influence in my love for this wonderful art form of animation. Things are definitely happening...

As wonderful as it has been, I'm 110% ready to go home and wrap my arms around my wife and daughter. Ariel is probably huge by now, and starting to smile and discuss the atmospheric kinetic principles of psychological photosynthesis like any 6-week-old baby would do, naturally.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Ottawa 2006 Day 3


Today was pretty awesome. In the morning, we went to a 'Meet the Filmmakers' panel and got to hear from some of the people whose films are showing this weekend. Said hello to Marv Newland again. That guy just pops up everywhere. One of the filmmakers was Kihachiro Kawamoto, famous stop-motion animator from Japan. I asked him which lessons were the most important he had learned from Jiri Trnka, and he said he had interviewed him, and he told him, "A puppet is not a miniature human. He has his own world." And that has stuck with him eversince. Now it has stuck with me.

After which, we set up the VanArts booth. Calvin ran into an old friend of his, David Nethery, from his first animation job in Ottawa, who he hadn't seen in 20 years...I've rarely seen anyone that excited about seeing another person in my life. Also saw Augusto again, who was still a bit shaken up by witnessing someone getting hit by a truck the night before, understandably so. We all went to wait for the double decker buses to arrive and take us to the Animator's Picnic.

While we were waiting, I saw Mr Kawamoto again, speaking with another stop-motion legend Co Hoedeman. I met Co a couple of years ago when he came to speak in Vancouver, and he seemed to remember me when I approached him again to talk to him. I showed him my book, since there is a large photo from The Sandcastle inside (to which he commented on the color being off...he said 'it's supposed to look like sand!') and I had mentioned him a couple of times in the text. Then I had both him and Kawamoto looking at it at once! What a rare moment of random stop-motion history that was...very exciting. They both appreciated it.

(Two stop-motion legends discuss with George Griffin the moral implications of my book.)

At the Animator's Picnic, I found Steve & Mary and brought them over to sit with us. Steve and Calvin hit it off right away and started talking about all of these Disney people they knew. We had a great time reminiscing about the old Tonka games and the time I stayed at their house and fed their chickens, fulfilling the mandatory task of singing the cartoon chicken song each time. Steve had to leave for a radio interview on CBC, which hopefully he can get a recording of. I called Jay and we talked for awhile...Ariel is still snotty but feeling better. Then spoke with a few more people, including Adam Mimnaugh from my VanArts class, who has his own studio now in Halifax.

We drove back with Calvin's friend Dave and another former Disney animator Anthony Michaels, who worked in Florida on Lilo & Stitch and many other projects. Picked up a few things from the hotel and had a nice dinner, then on to the Grand Opening of the Animarket! Our booth looks great this year...a far cry from last year...faaaaaaaaarrr cryyyyyyyyy......

Authors unite! Me with Cartoon Modern/Brew's Amid Amidi

Waited a bit for a copy of Cartoon Modern and had it signed by Amid Amidi; looks like a great book and I can't wait to dig into it. I ended up speaking at length to Larry Bafia, head of animation at VFS, who is also going to be part of our stop-motion panel since he worked with Will Vinton for many years. My Ariel brag-book of photos made its rounds to various people, including Jerry Beck who really liked the Kermit pictures. After the Animarket was over, I joined Augusto for the Short Competition screening.

It started with a showing of Every Child, in tribute to the late Derek Lamb. I had never seen the film before, and I was delighted by it. This screening, as a whole, was a bit darker than the others I've seen. My favorites were...Liam (a collection of abstract cut-out animation set to music, all compiled from a high school animation class; absolutely brilliant and entertaining throughout! Probably enjoyed it the most), Tyger (awesome music, great blend of Flash animation and a Bunraku tiger puppet with visible puppeteers), Rabbit (hilarious, creepy, great story, defies description, would sound better describing it verbally I think), Journey to the Disney Vault (very funny commentary on the "secrets" of the Disney studio, including Walt's "original print" of Song of the South... I shouldn't have laughed at it, but it was clever in the right context.)...also liked The Runt for it's cinematic design and color sense, although it was not the touching story I thought it might be judging from the picture...actually quite disturbing, but riveting and it stuck with you. My wife shall never see it, because bunnies die.

See ya tomorrow.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Ottawa 2006, Day 2

Today was mellow but productive, as how I would describe it. Slept in a little bit, until about 8:20, which isn't really sleeping in since I went to bed at 2, so in effect with the time difference I got up at 5:20. Stopped by the Ottawa School of Art, got a little tour and dropped off some VanArts stuff. For some reason I really like that just has a nice feel to it. Checked out some of the other school's presentations...then stayed for the Canadian Film Showcase, which was awesome. Talked to Marv Newland again and showed him my book (see picture).

Also talked with Ann Denman and got an update from her and the director of the animation festival in Portland they are planning for next year. They're interested in having me down for a book signing! Also met Tom Knott from Laika who will be involved with the Vancouver stop-motion panel discussion in November (where I will also be participating and signing books...mark yer calendar: Nov 29!)

The Canadian films were great, in particular: Abstract by Steve Whitehouse (reminded me of Pete Docter's student films), also liked Montrose Avenue (very modern 50s style Flash), Inheritance (stop-motion, creepy, David Lynch-esque, and starring a living cheese do you spell brilliant?), Cuz (cute Flash about global warming, sweet and simple), Emma Graves (which starred Meeka as the lead character's voice), and also Janet Perlman's Invasion of the Space Lobsters was cute, Marv's film was brilliant as always...and also in the David Lynch-category was a trippy cheesefest from Sheridan starring a CG Hulk Hogan playing video games in a psychedelic 80s video game world, which they accidentally played twice. Canada is weird. I like it.

Info Session tonight went very well, considering we had attendance of 3 people plus 1 parent, but it appears that all of them will likely apply, so it's worth it.

If you're reading this, please pray for my girls back home...they both have colds.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Ottawa 2006, Day 1

Greetings from Ottawa! I am here to represent VanArts a an Animation Festival Patron, to support the animation industry, network with studios and hopefully recruit some students, plus meet up with some old friends. Joining me is VanArts 3D Animation Program Director Calvin Leduc. I don't have my camera here with me, as I cannot deprive Jay from taking pictures of Ariel...that would be a crime, especially since I have to keep an eye on how much she's growing, plus I miss them. Calvin has his camera, so I will mooch pictures off him and add them later. (Update: Pictures now added! Huzzah!) Poor Jay is sick and I can't be there to take care of her. Sigh...

Anyway, so far so good. The traffic was really bad this morning so both Calvin and I were running a little late meeting at the airport, but Calvin even more so, to the point where I almost panicked and might have left solo. But all good, we made it by our coattails. Funny thing was, while waiting in line to check our bags we ended up behind a guy with ammunition in his luggage, like he was a hunter or something, so he had to go through all this lengthy paperwork while we're in danger of missing our flight. Sometimes life shakes you up a bit to keep things interesting.

4-hour flight was fine, with Inside Man as the in-flight movie...first half very good, second half eehhhh. Made it here in time to check in to our very nice 2-bedroom suite, pick up our passes, see a copy of my book at the Aniboutique table, and go to the first screening. Some really great films...highlight was another masterpiece by Joanna Quinn (UK animator who does the cha-cha-cha-Charmin bears who get all happy about toilet paper). Her new film would not be quite as appropriate for television, but brilliant all the same, beautiful work. So far have run into and chatted briefly with my good friend Augusto, Barry Ward from Bardel, Marv Newland, Amid Amidi and Jerry Beck at our brief appearance to the Opening Party, where they had a Brazilian band that was way too loud playing in an Irish pub. Strange juxtaposition, plus beer. Beauty.

Though it's almost 2am here, I'm right on time for bed according to my BC clock, so off I go to rest up for tomorrow.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Monday, September 11, 2006

Ariel meets Kermit

September 11, light of solemn reflection on a terrible day from 5 years ago, it could not have been more comforting and perfect to have the meeting of two very special people in my life: Ariel and Kermit. The most awesome and perfect gift imaginable arrived from my friend and colleague (and current freelance employer) Muppeteer Galen Fott and his family down in Nashville. Thanks you guys!

In other news, I'm starting to get into the swing of being back at work and catching up with activity from my time away. My Saturday classes started up again this past weekend, so it's back to being busy. This week I get to attend the first happening of the new equivalent to the Oscars/Emmies/Annies-type ceremony for the Canadian animation industry, hosted by William Shatner. Several of our students have been nominated for awards, and our involvement has mostly been in other peoples' hands so I'm not sure what to expect, but it should be fun. Also anticipating and preparing for going to the Ottawa Festival this year, which I am really looking super forward to. My book will be on sale at the Aniboutique with me present at the VanArts booth for autographs. I got some postcards today from the publishers to help with promotion, and a typo on the back says that I have an MFA instead of a BFA...not accurate, but it makes me look better!

Friday, September 08, 2006

Dialogue Exercises

I just recently posted the latest 'Creature Comforts'-inspired dialogue exercise from my stop-motion students on YouTube, so I figured I should add it here as well, and include the previous two, which have received several comments from happy people. I ask my students random questions and whatever un-scripted answers they give are drawn from a hat and animated, so nobody animates their own voice.

Animation & Voices by Andy Simpson, Jason Vanderhill, and Matt Hooker (bunny's voice is mine)

Animation & Voices by Luke Wareing, Darren Lee, Junko Ogawa, and Jose Torrico